No points and no goals scored at home is very poor reading for the Deepdale faithful and this performance indicated that it doesn’t look like getting better anytime soon.
I always try to take the positives out of the game but North End were just out muscled and eventually outclassed in a game that we never looked liked scoring in.
A mediocre first half followed by a second period with plenty of possession but absolutely no quality in the final third of the field particularly with the final ball and finish. Neil Harris had worked out North End very easily because we are so predictable and our Plan B is just lump it up to a big forward.
Jayden Stockley and Emil Riis offered a little near the end but I thought we just generally rolled over in this game and went out with a whimper. Alex Neil kept faith with the same side that came back for the superb win at Brentford two weeks ago.
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North End matched up with Cardiff’s 4-2-3-1 and we certainly started the game the brighter team.
We seemed to start the game as we finished at Brentford but it wasn’t long before the visitors started to out muscle us in the early part of the game and I can’t remember a recent game when we lost as many 50/50 balls early on in the game particularly in midfield.
We did get some joy playing down the left with Andrew Hughes getting forward at every opportunity but I thought the visitors looked the more likely to score even though they only really had one decent attempt when a Keifer Moore header went over the bar.
North End had a shot from Maguire saved early on but generally did not put anywhere near enough pressure on the Cardiff goal even though we finished the first half on top. It wasn’t a classic half of football and both managers would have been satisfied but no more as the teams went in for the break.
No changes after the break for North End but I was hoping to see much more intensity and closing down quicker than we had seen in the first half. Inevitably, though, it was the visitors who scored the goal that took all three three points and left North End’s home form reading like a horror story.
A quick breakaway from Cardiff saw Kieffer Moore shrug off the challenges of Patrick Bauer and Andrew Hughes far too easily and the ball through to Ojo was emphatically finished by the Liverpool loanee.
Declan Rudd was beaten at his near post but I don’t personally put any blame on the keep as it was a thunderbolt of a shot from comparatively close range. Alex Neil then brought on Tom Barkhuizen for Brad Potts but Barky was unusually ineffective and offered little to improve things.
The two big strikers were both introduced late on but apart from a Stockley chance, when he should have done better, we offered little in the way of threat on the Cardiff goal and the Bluebirds went away with the three points that their very strong defensive performance deserved.
Five games played is far too early to form an opinion of the potential in the squad for this season but if you look at 2020 as a calendar year then our form in the league is not much better than relegation form.
I know the manager feels that the lack of a crowd is having an impact at Deepdale but I’m afraid that just will not wash with me as all sides have to play at home and do without spectators. Since the return after full lockdown we have played 14 league games and won three, drawn five and lost six.
Fourteen points from fourteen games is bottom three form and the manager must find a way of bringing more consistency to the side particularly at Deepdale.
Two trips on the road to QPR and Huddersfield over the next six days will not be easy but they are both games that we need to take something from otherwise the patience of some of the Deepdale faithful will be starting to wear thin.